From Eureka Street, the Australian Jesuit periodical (you have to subscribe to read the whole thing):
Francois Bayrou: a former school teacher and 55 year old father of six is making a solid showing in the early stages of the French Presidential elections. And he is an openly serious Catholic.
"Indeed, Bayrou has never hidden neither his Catholic faith nor its importance for his vocation as a politician. "I am a Christian-democrat and fully aware of the significance of the linkage between the two words", he repeated recently."
But the dialogue between Catholicism and the political spectrum in France is very different than here in the US. In France, he is regarded to be part of "the right" while here, he would definitely be considered on "the left".
“ . . .many of Bayrou’s positions do in fact correspond to those of the modern environmental movement – moratorium on GM foods, support for bio-fuels, organic farming, a call to "defend the planet".
His positions on these and other issues illustrate why, even though his French critics often attempt to classify Bayrou with the right, he would generally be regarded as centre left on the Australian political spectrum.
Even on litmus-test 'faith' issues, Bayrou has managed to carve out political positions that seek to respect Catholic teaching without necessarily alienating other groups. He backs legal recognition of 'civil unions' among homosexuals, for example, while insisting that such unions remain legally distinct from marriage between a man and woman. He also supports the right of homosexuals to adopt children as individuals – as heterosexual singles may also do – but not as couples.
He also opposed the Iraq war because it was "not a just war" and was "contrary to the wishes of the international community and the UN". However, he also criticised Europe’s role in the crisis, saying that if the continent had managed to unite, it could have perhaps prevented the alliance of the UK with the US on the issue."
I have certainly noticed in my travels that the issues that grip American Catholics are often not those that serious, smart, orthodox Catholics in other countries find compelling. An abiding concern about abortion and marriage seems to be universal but outside of that, there is huge variety. Each Catholic community has its own distinct history and small "t" traditions that influence greatly how they understand and respond to the challenge to live the faith in the 21st century in their context.
It's refreshing to get outside the American context occasionally and realize how different "application on the ground" can look while still welling up from the same source: intentional discipleship.